Saturday, September 08, 2007

New CentreForum publication on coalitions

It's not only Mark Oaten who has been writing about coalitions. Paul Marshall's CentreForum think tank has also come up with a publication just in time for the Liberal Democrat Conference.

In the Balance: Coalition and minority governments in Britain and abroad. It contains four short chapters:
  • Introduction - Mark Bell & Alasdair Murray
  • Scotland - Peter Lynch
  • Wales - John Osmond
  • Germany - Martin Lodge & Kai Wegrich
I have already heard from one prominent Lib Dem who suspects the simultaneous appearance of these two books is not a coincidence. Oaten and Marshall have been associated before, notably with The Orange Book in 2004, and Oaten's recent Times article did look like an attempt to float the idea of a Lib Dem/Tory coalition after the next election.

There is little in In the Balance that can be read as a call for such an arrangement, but it will serve to get the press and the party talking about Lib Dem involvement in coalitions more generally.

For my own part, I would rather we concentrated on getting our ideas and policies over to the voters. As Iain Sharpe noted the other day:

if you are a Lib Dem who wants a coalition your best way of achieving it is not to talk about it too loudly. On the two occasions where the Lib Dems have allowed themselves to be portrayed as potential kingmakers – 1987 and 1992 – this led to a fall in our support as the election approached.

The electorate are unlikely to respond positively to an uppity third party trying to imply that it can choose between and lay down terms to the other and larger parties. Such presumption will make a hung Parliament, and therefore a coalition, less likely.

Still, those with an academic interest in the subject will find this booklet interesting. You can make you own mind up and download a pdf copy of In the Balance yourself. No doubt copies will be available at Brighton too.

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